From Bill Buford, one of our most interesting literary figures--eight years as fiction editor at "The New Yorker"--comes a sharp, funny, exuberant, ...Show synopsisFrom Bill Buford, one of our most interesting literary figures--eight years as fiction editor at "The New Yorker"--comes a sharp, funny, exuberant, close-up account of his headlong plunge into the life of a professional cook. A marvelous hybrid, "Heat" offers a memoir of Buford's kitchen adventure as well as an illuminating exploration of why food matters.Hide synopsis
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This author takes you on an enjoyable trip to kitchens around the world. Imagine a whole chapter on the history of pasta. Well, it's done so well, you forget you're reading about flour and water. The personalities in that special room where food is prepared are brought to life. By the end of the book, you not only learned how to bone a bistecca, but about the scores of cuts people endure, the scaldings, the long-term stirring... survival of the fitest. It is fascinating to be behind the scenes where your meals are prepared when your only problem is figuring out what wine goes with it.
I first became aware of Bill Buford from his highly entertaining "Among The Thugs" - a very entertaining account of soccer hooligans, based on Buford's time living in London. That book was great, but in my opinion got off track when Buford started an academic discussion about mobs - I wanted more stories of hooligans acting badly. (Perhaps this reflects poorly on me.)
"Heat" does go off the rails a few time (Buford becomes obsessed with finding the FIRST recipe for some things...and it's never clear why), but in general is a very compelling, often funny account of Buford's time working for, among others, Mario Batali and the chefs in Italy who originally trained Batali. Buford dives in headfirst, going so far as to buy a whole pig once he's back in Manhattan - no small feat - and describing in hilarious detail the process of bringing it home on his moped and cooking it over a period of weeks.
The only other thing I'd caution about this book is that I have heard several people refer to it as "that Mario Batali book." Batali certainly appears throughout the book, but it's very much NOT about him. The book is about Buford, and his immersion in his passion of cooking. In that, it's a highly entertaining read and recommended.
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